Bonsai Trees

Case Histories

Dwarf Spruce - (picea glauca 'albertiana conica')

Spruce Bonsai Style: Rock Planting

This wonderful piece of tufa rock was a prize which I had the good fortune to win in my local bonsai society's evening raffle. Each meeting the club holds a raffle to raise funds and all of the prizes are donated by members.

On this particular occasion the prize had been given by a friend of mine and he has been pleased to follow the development of this bonsai.

I was eager to utilize the rock and decided that a planting of dwarf spruce would be best, particularly as I was aware that my local garden centre had recently stocked up with some of these, which would be highly suitable for this project. It was late spring and I had just finished my repotting schedule.

Eight small spruce trees were soon purchased and I studied the rock to find the best viewing angle. Being tufa rock, soft and very porous, I was able to carve planting pockets where required with a screw driver.

Spruce Bonsai History: Training

Separate holes were made mainly near or on the top of the rock and each of the trees was styled and wired. All the lower branches were removed to expose the trunks and make these young saplings take on the appearance of older trees.

Each spruce was root pruned and those with branches growing mainly on one side were planted towards the edges of the rock, with the branches growing outwards, towards the light. The rest were positioned and with some minor pruning and arrangement of the branches, a rock planting was born.

The group recovered in a sheltered area of the garden, where they all quickly budded and began growing, except for one tree which unfortunately died. It was planted at the very front of the rock and after removing the tree, I decided that it was not necessary for it to be replaced and the resulting hole created an interesting crevice.

That summer the remaining seven trees grew strongly and I was finding it difficult to keep them adequately watered. I began looking for a shallow pot and during the winter found an ideal container. It was an unglazed, oval pot and I placed the planting in the pot, securing it with wire ties attached to the bottom of the rock by screws.

I filled the pot with compost and the next season found that the rock dried out much less, as it absorbed the moisture content from the surrounding soil mix. The trees looked resplendent with their fresh spring foliage and I removed the wire from them as it was just starting to bite in. I heavily under planted with moss to give a natural look.

For the next five years, the only maintenance that was carried out was light shoot pinching each spring. The trees began to take on a bushy appearance and now that they were more established, needed restructuring. Over half of the foliage was removed, providing more light for the inner branches and making the spruce resemble trees rather than bushes. Each branch and shoot was wired in a general horizontal direction and the soil mix in the pot was replaced. I was pleased to see that the roots had grown completely through the soft rock and were now actually growing in the compost as well.

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